This is a transcription from tape recording. Bp Lamb gave his sermon without notes.
It’s good to be a part of this congregation. It’s been a while, although I was here for the funeral of your beloved rector emeritus in October.
Anybody know what today is? The 29th of March, 2009? You know where we were … a year later? [referencing the Special Convention in Lodi, end of March 2008, where St. John’s made its protest, see the Surrounded weblog] We have come a long way my friends, and I rejoice greatly in the distance that we have traveled together. Thank you to all of you.
In talking over the services this morning Rob asked …..or mentioned the fact that he had read my Friday newsletter [Friday Reflections] and realized that I was probably going to be looking at this opening of the gospel today for my sermon. So he put it on the sign [without asking, the day before, see signboard photo] and he was right on, like usual, absolutely.
The whole context of this Sunday is to really move us into an understanding of the new covenant, the new covenant that is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And in this new covenant there is a whole new way of relating to God through the actions of our Lord.
So we have the Old Testament reading [Jeremiah] about the new covenant;
We have Paul’s [Letter to the Hebrews] comments about Jesus being the high priest not of his own choosing but because of the choice of his Father and being sent by his Father.
And then the beginning of his Gospel today that then allowed Jesus to talk about what was going to happen to him and that how his death and resurrection would be the core of the new relationship with God.
That as I shared in the Friday newsletter, I am so much taken by the incident that begins this Gospel reading today.
The Greeks from the area of Galilee were probably very much secular people, very secular people. They were most likely “believers” but believers who had not accepted all of the Jewish tradition. We see these same kinds of people being referred to in the Acts of the Apostles as people who had taken on the moral code of Judaism and lived it; uh, they participated in the Feasts, but they did not become Jews. There are other theories that they were very secular and they were just looking for a way to understand Judaism as a political context.
But it.. it.. it feels to me and seems to me that this is a much more of a context of seekers, of people seeking a new deeper relationship with God.
They obviously heard about Jesus, they heard him. We know they had listened to him, and they were affected, in a way that was unique to them, by who Jesus was and what he was saying, how he was engaging with the people.
And so they asked if they might come and see Jesus, if they might meet him, if they might have the chance to..to speak with him. And remember, these are Greeks, they are foreigners. Most of the very uh.. conservative Jews of that day would have nothing to do with these people. They were considered foreigners. They were to stay away. They could be on the edges, but you only talked to them when you kinda had to….
And they came to Philip.
And the Gospel mentions clearly that Philip is from Bethsaida, a place in that area of Galilee where there are many people, in different contexts.
Something about Philip invited them to speak with him. They might have known him, they might have had contact with him, they might have known his second cousin, whoever that was.. But there was something that drew these foreigners to Philip so they could ask this question, “We would like to see Jesus.”
Philip, being Philip, goes and gets his buddy Andrew – and the two of them are really a pair, you rarely see one without the other – And they go to see Jesus.
I think these opening verses are.. are such a statement about evangelism for us as members of this Tradition that I don’t know how we could look away from them. There is the context of a relationship between Philip and these people that allowed them to risk asking the question. And I think that is such a core of where we need to be, to be open to all of God’s people, to listen to them, and in whatever way they begin asking the question, “We would see Jesus”, we are in position to respond to them.
I believe that the basic core here is that Philip and Andrew have their personal relationship with Jesus. And if we are going to be evangelists, sharers of the word, we have to have that same kind of relationship with Jesus:
We have to know him.
We have to follow him.
We have to believe in him.
And then we need to engage, to open ourselves to Not to be closed, not to live our lives in such a way that people can’t enter into our lives to ask the question.
I think we can learn a lot from this Gospel today.
Not only about the new covenant based in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, but our role in sharing the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came to that we might have life.
It has normally been my custom to stop what I’m saying and to see if anyone has a comment that they would like to make either on the reading or on what I said or should have said.